Tests and Threats



Barst has his arms folded across his chest as he stares out over the small settlement. His thick cloak rustles slightly in the breeze, whispering into the wind. He eyes one villager to the next, almost as if sizing one up to get into a fight with.

Haeneth glanced up as she wandered out onto the porch, thankful the rain had dried from the sky, even if her hair and shirt were still more damp than warm. "There's an inn up north with a porch rather like this. I knew a man who claimed it as his roost, the way you do. I could never tell if he wanted to watch more than he wanted to be watched."

Barst glances over his shoulder at Haeneth. "Hm. There's not many other places to watch over the village here. If there was one that I wouldn't be spotted, I wouldn't have to stand here for all to see."

Haeneth nodded to the streets. "You can watch from there. You miss a lot by not talking to folks."

Barst scoffs, his gaze turning back to the streets. "Half of the folk around here seem barely able to speak the Common Tongue. Not to mention terrified of me." He reaches up to scratch at his beard. "I don't mind, of course. I hardly plan on settling here."

Haeneth hooked her thumb into her belt, leaning on one leg more than the other. She watched him more than the town. "You said you wanted a job."

Barst says, 'Aye, I did. What of it?'

Haeneth glanced behind at the meadhall's heavy closed door. "The Thane's man. Gadthorm, I'm told his name is." She looked at him. "I want you to pick a fight with him."

Barst glances back at Haeneth, one eyebrow raised. "And now, why would I want to do that? I'd rather keep my head on my shoulders, thank you." He rumbles, waving a hand to reject the idea.

Haeneth chuckled drily. "You seem the type to have been in more than one bar brawl where no one managed to die. You wanted a job. I want to see how he reacts to aggression, to a threat. I wouldn't let it get out of hand, but I want to know what we're up against, if he decides to become a threat himself. I want to see how the thane handles conflict."

Barst grunts, still not particularly liking the idea. "That's not my point. I'm not worried about that scrawny Dunlending. I'm more concerned about the thane who could have my head removed for assaulting one of his men." He turns his gaze back to Haeneth. "I'm not so green to head into a fight without thinking of my own skin."

Haeneth nodded, listening to his concern. "I didn't say assault him. I said pick a fight. I have a feeling you know how to get under the skin of a man like that. Besides, he might not take the bait."

Barst rumbles, seemingly pacified by the idea. "What's in it for me? I don't do charity." He grunts, his thunder-like voice returning to its low volume.

Haeneth 's voice was softer, but coarse, like sheepskin. "A place in the warband. You ride, you sleep, you eat with the rest of us. You share our spoils, whether from a hunt or a fight. You will get your share of the coin we use to clothe and arm ourselves. There will be more work out there. We also don't plan to settle in Cranborn."

Barst stands very still for a few moments. "And why would I want a place in your warband? I do just fine on my own." He rumbles. His face, like always, would be incredibly difficult to read and his voice would be just as masked.

Haeneth answered plainly. "Because I think something is keeping you here more than the promise of a drink from my daughter."

Barst scratches his beard again, still masking his inner thoughts. "Really? An interesting theory," he rumbles in response. "How much has she told you about me?"

Haeneth tilted her head, gazing out at the town. "Much less than she thinks. She likely wants me to make my own assessment. But she's curious about you. You're a mercenary from the lands south of Dale, but how you came to the Mark, and why you stayed, she hasn't mentioned."

Barst rumbles again, sounding more like avalanche than man. "Good. The fewer people know those things, the better." He then turns his attention back to Haeneth. "I don't care if I have a place in your warband or not, Haeneth. But..." He rolls his shoulders upward in a shrug. "I'll do as you ask. If only for that drink." He finishes with a slight smirk.

Haeneth grinned, hiding whatever other look she wore. Her green eyes, dull as dried sage, were unlike the frozen river-water blue of Dytha's, but their brows puckered in the same way, though Haeneth's was framed not by white wisps of hair but wrinkles and scars. "I don't think I have to tell you what would happen if you hurt her."

Barst turns his attention back to the village. "I think you give me more credit than I'm due. Your daughter is possibly the most dangerous woman I've ever met." He says, his tone just as rigid as before.

Haeneth 's eyes lurked in the edge of his gaze. "That isn't the kind of hurt that I mean."

Barst shrugs. "I figured." He says quietly. "Who knows why I came along on this wild chase? There's so much I could be doing otherwise than sitting around here, chasing after some brigands who might not really have any ties here at all."

Haeneth nodded, resting her hand on the horse-head of her bone-carved knife hilt. "This is a nothing town, barely relevant to the Reeve, and the people here know that. They would as soon side with a Dunlending clan if they were closer than Edoras. It's places like these where the trouble starts."

Barst says, 'Perhaps. But it feels like we've been here for weeks with little to no clues about the whereabouts of these brigands. Awfully strange, if they were near here.'

Haeneth sighed. "I don't think they are, but someone knows something, and that person is still here. I won't abandon an outcast when there's hope of saving him."

Barst exhales through his nose in an exasperated sigh. "Well, I know where Dytha got her stubbornness from..." He mutters. "... So. What kept you from getting here? Took you a long enough time."

Haeneth seemed used to the accusation. She had been one to make the same assessment herself more than once. "Dead men are hard to find. I found another bandit camp. Similar size and makeup. Slaughtered."

Barst raises his eyebrows. "Hm. What a shame. Sure hope whoever did it is on our side, hm?" He'd muse quietly, his eyes almost gleaning in the torchlight. "Wouldn't want to get on their bad side.

Haeneth 's nod didn't match the hollowness of her expression. "I don't think it was."

Barst clicks his tongue, the sound sharply piercing the night air. "Shame. That means there's a third party involved in all this. I don't like that at all..."

Haeneth nodded. "We were lucky that Will lived."

Barst says, 'Hmm... Well, It's gotten late. I think I'm going to head to sleep.' Barst glances at Haeneth, nodding. "Pleasure talking to you again, Haeneth."

Haeneth bowed her head, glancing over her shoulder at him and offering a soft smile. "Good night, Barst. I'll see you again soon, I hope."

Chat Log: 04/17